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An Iranian held for more than four years by Somali pirates has been released, a humanitarian organisation that helps hostages said on Saturday.

Mohammad Sharif Panahandeh was a crew member on the FV Siraj, an Iranian fishing vessel that was captured off the coast of Somalia in March 2015, the Hostage Support Partnership said in a statement.

He was one of the last four hostages being held by Somali pirates.

“Mr Sharif was very seriously ill and would not have survived much longer,” said Leslie Edwards, who negotiated the release on behalf of the partnership.

Following medical tests, he will be flown home to Iran in the coming days, the Nairobi-based group said.

“There remain three other poor souls held hostage now for over five years and living in appalling conditions.”

“I call on the pirates and local leaders of influence … to show humanity and release these men too,” said Hostage Support Partnership coordinator John Steed.

International patrols and the presence of security guards on board vessels have dissuaded Somali pirates in recent years.

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